10 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Prevent Bullying

Ideas on how to build your teen's self-esteem

confident teen

Building self-esteem is a core component of bullying prevention. With a healthy self-esteem, your teens will not only be more confident, but they also will be able to identify their strengths – and their weaknesses – and still feel good about themselves. A healthy self-esteem also helps protect kids if a bully does target them. And it may even keep some bullies at bay.

People who bully others are looking for someone who will react to their hurtful words or actions.

As a result, bullies target teens who are not confident or assertive. But if your teen shrugs off a bully's verbal attack, makes light of it or simply shows no emotional reaction, the bully will be less likely to try again.

Fostering a healthy self-esteem in your kids has other benefits too. For instance, a solid self-esteem protects teens from the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships and dating abuse. Here are some ideas on how to build self-esteem in your kids.

Spend time with your kids. When you spend time with your teens, you are communicating that they are important, which goes a long way in developing self-esteem. Additionally, spending time together allows you to build a solid relationship. That foundation becomes extremely important as they face more and more challenges.

Get your teens involved in activities that boost their confidence. When teens have areas in their lives where they feel confident, this attitude will carry over into other areas of life, reducing the likelihood that they will be bullied.

Any enjoyable activity your child excels in will build confidence. Help your children draw on their strengths and find something they enjoy.

Allow your teens to experience disappointment and to make mistakes. Encourage your teens to take reasonable risks and try not to shelter them or rescue them from life's setbacks.

The goal is to allow kids to experience setbacks and disappointments without feeling a sense of failure. Instead, teach them how to learn from situations and move on. Doing so will go a long way in developing resiliency in your kids.

Show your teens unconditional love. Do not be afraid to tell your teens that you are proud of them. This is not the same thing as "pumping up their egos." Instead, stress that perfection is not important but hard work and effort is. Kids who see themselves as adequate, competent and loved will not feel threatened by the differences or successes of others.

Encourage your teens to volunteer their time. It can be very rewarding and fulfilling for teens to volunteer in some way. Whether it's cleaning up a local park, packing groceries at a food pantry or taking cookies to the elderly, volunteering helps them feel like they are part of something important. Additionally, it teaches them gratitude for their own lives and compassion for those less fortunate.

Acknowledge your teen's good behaviors and accomplishments. Many times, parents correct bad behavior and choices but then forget to acknowledge the good things their teens do. Kids won't believe in themselves and their abilities unless they receive positive reinforcement when they do something right.

Also, pointing out the positives helps your child see the world in a more positive light. If you focus only on the negative, then your kids will tend to focus or dwell on the negatives in the world around them.

Demonstrate that you believe in your teen's competency. Start by assigning basic tasks, responsibilities and chores. Avoid jumping in and taking over because your teen didn't do it exactly how you thought it should be done. The same goes for homework. Instead of doing math problems for your kids or typing their papers, provide some instruction or ideas on how they can do it. Allow them to complete the task on their own.

When you allow them to work through something on their own – no matter how difficult – you are confirming your belief in their capabilities. Over time, they will learn to believe in their capabilities too.

Give positive feedback on more than just academics or sports. Be sure to give positive reinforcement for other types of behaviors such as generosity, empathy, cooperation, leadership skills, taking responsibility and courage.

Teach your teens how to be assertive, but not aggressive. Many kids are not naturally assertive. They need to be taught that they can stand up for themselves. It's also important to teach them the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Explain that aggressive kids try to force other people to think like them or play their way. Meanwhile, assertive kids are respectful of other people's differences and ideas but aren't afraid to assert their own beliefs and ideas. Assertive kids also feel comfortable defending themselves when someone says or does something hurtful.

Explain to your teens that knowing how to say "no" is healthy. Your children should feel they have the right to say no to a request that makes them uncomfortable, even if that person is an adult. The key is to teach your kids how to say no respectfully and to set healthy boundaries. For instance, if your son doesn't want to attend a certain party, he should feel comfortable enough to say "Maybe next time." And if your daughter doesn't feel like going shopping with a group of girls, she should feel comfortable enough to say, "No thank you."

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